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In Machine We Trust

Popularity 10Viewed 1837 times 2015-9-4 07:32 |Personal category:Quote Me|System category:Life| Machine, Trust, Our, new, God

There is a well-known saying written on the currency of the USA - "In God We Trust".

I find this a bit odd since the founding fathers of that nation have been quoted as saying that their nation and government were in favour of separtion of church (really ANY religion) and state. Atheists apparently enjoy the same rights as believers of any religion in the USA according to the constitution.

Well, it may have been a sign of the times that someone in the government of the USA felt a need to let everyone know that they trust in a God which is not defined in any manner in their constitution. Since most religions or philosophies, barring a few exceptions, atttibute absolute perfection and desirable qualities to their idea of God, it is perhaps understandable that someone wanted to make it clear, right there on their currency, that when it comes to money, perhaps the only entity that the nation trusted is God. It is by an elegant statement of omission that they said nothing about their trust in humans, who created their nation state, ideas of wealth, money and their currency. To me, that failure to trust humans enough - not all, but atleast the majority of the people to do the right thing in the affairs of the state, including economy- is very telling.

In many ways it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Not only the USAnians, but the entire world can trust only God to make sense of the economy and financial practices of the USA. Only God can get it out of the hole it has dug for itself economically and the mess it is in. Only God can save the rest of the world from the terrible consequences of such a process, if God were to choose fixing that problem.

Now, we have come to another juncture in the history of the world. It has been in the making for many decades now. I think most of us have either noticed it or take it for granted now that we trust humans less to do things well as compared to machines. We accept and expect people to be less capable, less perfect, less efficient than machines. In almost all aspects of life, where we once trusted humans to be the best, it is no longer so. 

Whether it is cleaning the house, washng dishes, cutting the grass, doing brain surgery, making a wheel or toy, sowing clothes, crunching large numbers, weighing a hundred different factors and arriving at an optimum decision in a fraction of a second, we trust machines to do these tasks far better than us. We would trust a machine (a computer is still a machine) to land our plane, drive our cars, perform minute delicate surgery over a human, no matter how smart the human is. 

Yes, to an extent we trust humans ultimately when it comes to some feelings or motives - we trust their love for us. We are used to trusting humans when it come to doing the right thing. When we dont trust some machines or computers it is because we dont trust the humans who might have made them or programmed them with an evil motive. 

We know that if a given machine or computer is programmed to be impartial, it will do its job better, more accurately and consistently than a human ever can. It will never develop a motive to favour you or disfavour you. It will not lie and mislead you, unless it has been programmed to do so by a human.

More and more, public dealings of banks, governments are being automated and computerised. Machines are trusted to be more efficient and honest than humans in that role, even if many of us complain about their impersonal nature. We trust computers to count our votes more honestly than humans.

The most crucial time-critical and real-time systems upon which a large number of human lives depend on, are now most likely controlled by machines - whether it is a hospital power supply, a complex surgical tool, a large ship, the latest cars, a jet plane or a nuclear weapon. Sure, there is often a human override, but it is rarely used. Many of these are designed to not accept human control beyond a certain point because we do not trust humans. Soldiers are being replaced by robots, drones and other machines. They are trusted to carry out their tasks without complaint, dissent or developing a conscience or human feeling. It seems we humans can trust only machines to not have a motive of their own. They will do our bidding no matter what immoral act we tell them to do. The way some nations are going about treating their citizens, it is not surprising that they are starting to appear as if they were mindless robots with no personal independent thinking, feelings or conscience. They are all kept busy and satisfied with enough material personal needs or wants.

Things have become so, that I believe that it would be true to say today ,"In Machines We Trust."

Perhaps machines are the best example of our human efforts to create a working representation of God - "True, Consistent, Honest, Impartial, Efficient, Excellent in performing any task." Of course, humans will be humans and will never stop attempting to corrupt  our new Machine-Gods and trying to program a bias in them.

Ultimately, while we know it is only humans who can corrupt each other and machines, it is also only humans who can do better than machine and be unfairly nice to each other.

What if a machine is programmed to have a conscience of sorts? What if a machine is programmed to be impartial? Do you suppose ALL humans would accept it? I doubt it!
We cannot accept a true God of our own creation. We can only sell a corrupt version of it to others!

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)




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